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Unbeaten Edmonton Oil Kings complete circuit with win over Calgary

Dylan Guenther (11) of the Edmonton Oil Kings celebrates with teammates Scott Atkinson (15) and Ross Stanley (4) after scoring against the Calgary Hitmen at 7 Chiefs Sportsplex on March 27, 2021, on Tsuut’ina Nation.
Dylan Guenther (11) of the Edmonton Oil Kings celebrates with teammates Scott Atkinson (15) and Ross Stanley (4) after scoring against the Calgary Hitmen at 7 Chiefs Sportsplex on March 27, 2021, on Tsuut’ina Nation.

They came. They saw. They continue to conquer.

The Edmonton Oil Kings improved to 9-0-0 on the year with a 5-2 win over the Calgary Hitmen on Saturday.

And with it, the Western Hockey League-leading team has left its mark in enemy territory across all four of the visiting rinks in the Alberta-only Central Division this year.

One night earlier, the Oil Kings won 4-3 on home ice at the Downtown Community Arena, allowing their most goals-against this year in the process.

And Calgary proved equally as scrappy in the rematch, trailing 2-1 after 40 minutes before Edmonton finally pulled away, led by a pair of three-point performances by Jake Neighbours and Dylan Guenther.

Riley Stotts and Sean Tschigerl responded for the home team at 7 Chiefs Sportsplex on Tsuut’ina Nation.

“They play hard and we don’t expect anything easy from them when we play them,” said Oil Kings head coach Brad Lauer. “Every time we play them, it’s always a battle and that’s the way it should be.

“It’s always good to see guys compete against each other and it’s also good to see when we come out on top too.”

Sebastian Cossa stopped 29 of 31 shots for his eighth win of the season, while Brayden Peters made 40 saves on 45 Edmonton shots.

STRIKE FIRST

For the eighth time in nine games, the Oil Kings were first on the scoreboard, thanks to a play that started with a long stretch pass from Matthew Robertson right to Carter Souch on the Calgary blue line.

From there, captain Scott Atkinson’s shot bounced off the pad of Peters and right to Guenther, who tapped in his league-leading ninth goal of the season at 16:18.

The reigning WHL rookie of the year and projected first-round NHL draft pick is clipping along at a goal-and-two-points per game pace.

STRUCK HARD

Oil Kings defenceman Keagan Slaney was slow to his feet after being driven into the boards while getting tied up with Calgary’s Cael Zimmerman. The five-foot-nine Airdrie product took his helmet off before skating to the Edmonton bench. He did not return.

“He allowed himself to get into an awkward position, which unfortunately gave him an upper-body injury,” said Lauer, adding Slaney is day-to-day.

That left Edmonton with six defencemen, four of whom are rookies, including Matt Smith. The 18-year-old native of Edmonton marked his WHL regular-season debut Saturday with his very first point, assisting on a second-period goal by Neighbours, who was the target of a cross-ice feed on the back door by Guenther.

“We put a lot of minutes on Robbie tonight,” Lauer said of veteran defenceman Matthew Robertson, a New York Islanders prospect. “But I thought our young guys really stepped up and helped fill that void.

“It gives up opportunity and it’s good to see guys play in different situations.”

PUSH BACK

They may not have a goal on the man-advantage yet this year, going 0-for-4 Saturday, but that didn’t stop Calgary’s special teams from earning one shorthanded.

Tschigerl was credited with a goal after he and Atkinson slid into Cossa, who made the initial stop, but couldn’t keep himself from getting pushed back the loose puck underneath him, which slid across the goal line to put Calgary on the board with two-and-a-half minutes left in the second period.

“I understand the puck’s behind him and he had to get to the puck, but I also thought he had to go through the goalie in order to get to the puck,” said Lauer. “I think that’s where me and the ref disagree. But those things happen at all levels.”

POWER PLAY, KINDA

After starting out 0-for-4 and giving up the shortie, Edmonton’s power play regained the two-goal lead as Guenther found Neighbours once again, this time for a one-time slap-shot from the point to open the third.

Atkinson followed up 2:28 later with his fifth goal of the year on a doorstep deflection off a Souch setup.

Calgary was two seconds away from officially earning their first power-play goal of the season. But for all intents and purposes, they physically still had the man advantage while taking a number of whacks at the puck in the crease before Stotts finally banged it past a prone Cossa with just under half a period to play.

But Calgary’s momentum fizzled when Kaid Oliver closed out the scoring in the final 5:15. Rookie defenceman Ross Stanley had a helper for his first WHL point.

IN AND OUT

The Oil Kings were without a couple of veterans in right winger Josh Williams and defenceman Ethan Cap, who were taking a maintenance day. For Calgary, Tyson Galloway is out week to week with what the club is calling a lower-body injury, while fellow defenceman Luke Prokop left in Saturday’s second period.

Next up: The three-game series concludes back at Edmonton’s Downtown Community Arena on Sunday (4 p.m.).

E-mail: [email protected]

On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021

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